UCAT PREPARATION

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
Apr 15, 2021

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Did you know that if you spend an average of 2 minutes answering and absorbing the explanation of each question in a question bank, it will take you 333 hours to get through 10k questions!?

No wonder the vast majority of people don’t answer anywhere near 10k questions before their exam!

We surveyed 100s of medical students and asked them what their biggest issue was when preparing for the UCAT.

Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

However, everyone has a different baseline ability. You might struggle with quantitative reasoning, whereas your friend might be a maths wizard. With a standard question bank, you’ll both answer the same QR questions, in the same order, meaning you’ll be left struggling while your friend doesn’t feel stretched.

No wonder so many people can find preparing for the UCAT frustrating!

The Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is here to change all that.

We recognise that the vast majority of students don’t complete all 10,000 questions in a question bank.

It’s therefore vitally important that the questions you do answer are relevant to your skill and ability level.

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As you progress through the question bank, you’ll be able to see a sophisticated estimate of your current skill level for each subsection of the UCAT. When other question banks give you a performance review, they are simply telling you how many questions you’ve got right or wrong. 

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Our algorithm will tell you exactly what your ability level is for each area of the UCAT. We calculate this based on the actual difficulty of the questions you are answering and it’s done in real time, so you can be sure that the work you’re putting in is actually translating into real gains in your UCAT score.

The Medistudents UCAT question bank is the only one available which shows you if you’re actually getting better at answering harder questions.

The third subtest in the UCAT, Quantitative Reasoning, assesses your problem solving skills in relation to numbers. It’s generally a high scoring section of the UCAT; with the right preparation you can also achieve highly and positively impact your final score with the Quantitative Reasoning subtest. This guide will provide you with tips on how to do well and where to access quality Quantitative Reasoning practice questions, as well as information on the subtest and how to prepare for it.

What is the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

Within the Quantitative Reasoning subtest, you’ll receive questions linked to data, which will be presented in tables, charts and/or graphs, as well in the question itself. It aims to assess your ability to use numerical skills to quickly solve problems related to the data provided.

Why is there a UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest? What does it test?

The UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to analyse data, extract relevant information and solve problems using numerical skills. Despite this need for numerical skills, the focus is predominantly on your problem solving and the exam relies on mathematics to GCSE standard only.

Being able to review data is a skill required by doctors. For example, this is needed for the following:

  • To carry out accurate drug calculations based on a patient’s weight, age and other factors.
  • To interpret, critique and apply results from clinical research, which may be presented in the form of complex statistics.

What is the structure / format of the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

The format of the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section is as follows:

  • 36 multiple choice questions
  • Data provided in tables, charts and/or graphs
  • For most sets of data there will be four associated questions but some will be standalone questions

How much time do you get for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

You’ll have 24 minutes (plus a 1 minute instruction section) to answer the 36 multiple choice questions, giving you approximately 40 seconds per question.

What types of questions are included in the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

The question format within the Quantitative Reasoning subtest is consistent, with a written statement and/or a set of data, each with up to four associated questions. Each question will require you to use information from the statement and/or data to solve a problem using your mathematical skills. The questions are multiple choice, with five answers options for each question, from which you need to choose the ‘best option’.

What types of calculations are needed for the Quantitative Reasoning questions?

The UCAT website outlines the following key calculations which you’ll need to be able to carry out for the Quantitative Reasoning section:

  • Percentages: including, changing to and reversing percentages, and finding decimal equivalents.
  • Proportionality: direct and inverse.
  • Rates: including speed and rates of flow.
  • Averages: including means, combined samples and predictive use.

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest Scores

Questions within the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest are worth one mark, meaning you can score thirty-six marks in total. Your raw mark will be converted into a ‘scale score’ between 300 – 900. The other cognitive subtests – Abstract Reasoning, Decision Making and Verbal Reasoning – are all scored in the same way, whereas the Situational Judgement Test is scored using a band system.

What is an average score for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

Out of all the subtests in the UCAT, Quantitative Reasoning has consistently had the highest average score, in the last five years.

The UCAT website provides the following ‘mean scores’ for the Quantitative Reasoning subtest from 2016 – 2020:

Year Number of candidates Mean scaled score
2016 23,359 690
2017 24,844 695
2018 27,466 658
2019 29,375 662
2020* 34,153 664

*Note, scores from 2020 are for tests taken up to 25 October 2020.

For more information about how the UCAT is scored, including the scaled scoring, visit the UCAT Practice Test blog.

What is a good score for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest?

As a general rule, approximately 20 – 30 marks above the average score for the subtest would be considered a ‘good’ UCAT score. Therefore, for 2020, a ‘good’ score for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest would be 684 – 694. Remember, the average score will vary each year, and therefore so will a ‘good’ UCAT score, depending on how each year’s candidates perform.

As the Quantitative Reasoning section is generally a high scoring subtest, a ‘good’ score is relatively high, especially compared to sections such as Verbal Reasoning. However, don’t worry if this isn’t your strongest subtest, the ‘scale scores’ mean that each of ‘cognitive subtests’ are evenly scored, giving you an opportunity to still achieve a ‘good’ overall score.

Is the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest hard?

As with all sections of the UCAT, the Quantitative Reasoning subtest is designed to challenge you. However, remember that the numerical skills required are GCSE level, so you don’t need to worry if you haven’t continued mathematics on to A Level. Furthermore, familiarity with the questions you’ll be asked and how to answer them will help you to perform well; effective preparation, which includes plenty of practice questions and tests, will help you to achieve this. You’ll find more information about practice questions and where to access our free UCAT practice tests in the example questions section below.

How to prepare for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest

As mentioned above, focusing on practice questions and practice tests during your UCAT preparations will support you to understand what the subtest involves, the types of questions and how to answer them. This is vital for performing well in the Quantitative Reasoning subtest and all areas of the UCAT. Practice tests will also help you to get used to the time pressure of the Quantitative Reasoning section and familiarity with the questions will enable you to identify what you need to do more quickly.

During your UCAT preparations, ensure that you experience a full range of the types of questions in the Quantitative Reasoning subtest and most importantly dedicate time to those which you find most challenging. Our adaptive UCAT question bank does the work for you and will automatically ensure that you practice the areas which are likely to have the most impact on your UCAT Quantitative Reasoning score.

As well as practice questions and tests, general maths practice will support your Quantitative Reasoning preparations and will save you time during the exam. You may find the following useful:

  • Revise GCSE maths and ensure that you understand and can perform the key calculations required for the exam (as outlined in the calculations section above).
  • Practice your mental maths; this will help you immensely during the exam and will likely save you time.
  • Ensure that you’re confident reading tables, charts and graphs.

Tips to do well in the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest

The following simple tips will help you to save time – which is vital when you only have approximately 40 seconds per question – and perform well during your UCAT Quantitative Reasoning test:

  • Practice using the onscreen calculator before the exam
    This will help to avoid wasting time during the exam as you’ll be familiar with the calculator and how it works. The UCAT website has a Tour Tutorial where you can familiarise yourself with all of the test functions, including the onscreen calculator.
  • Try to avoid overusing the calculator
    Just because there’s a calculator provided on screen for this section of the UCAT doesn’t mean you need to use it for all questions; in fact, in some it may just slow you down. A combination of mental arithmetic and using the calculator, where needed, will help you with speed and accuracy of answers.
  • Likewise, try to avoid overusing the whiteboard provided
    The whiteboard is provided so you jot down notes or calculations to help you answer questions. Use it when you have more complex problem solving or calculations to carry out, or for linked questions, but remember that you may not need to use if for every question. Using it when you don’t need to will eat into your valuable time.  
  • Use mental maths
    As mentioned above, not all questions or even all elements of questions will need the calculator or to be written on the whiteboard provided. As all this takes extra time, only utilise them when you need to, and use your mental maths skills to help you with quick calculations.
  • Make sure you understand the questions first
    Avoid wasting time examining the data before you know what you’re looking for. Although you need to understand the data, it’s important that this is in relation to the question. Ensure that you’ve read and understood the question first, before finding the relevant information from the table, graph or chart, which will enable you to solve the problem.
  • Use estimates and the ‘flag’ function if needed
    As with all of the UCAT subtests, the Quantitative Reasoning section is not negatively marked, so you won’t be penalised for giving incorrect answers. So even if your answer is an estimate or roughly worked out guess, due to the time constraints, it’s better to use it than to leave the answer blank.

    Again, remember the ‘flag’ function on the test, which allows you to mark any questions that you’re not sure of and revisit them if you have time. This can also be useful for questions that you’re not sure of or feel you’re wasting too much time on, allowing you to come back to them if time allows.

    You may find that eliminating obvious outliers or incorrect answers is a useful tactic for helping you to estimate or guess an answer, where necessary.
  • Check the units
    Occasionally, the units in the answer may be different to those in the question. Avoid small mistakes losing you marks, by remembering to check the units and convert them where required.

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest practice / example questions

Practice questions and practice tests will be invaluable for preparing for all sections of the UCAT. Including them in your revision will ensure that you’re familiar with the questions you’ll be asked and how to respond. It’ll also provide you with experience of dealing with the time pressure of the Quantitative Reasoning subtest and help you to increase your pace when answering the questions.

If you’re looking for free practice questions, visit our UCAT Practice Test blog, which provides questions for all sections of the UCAT, as well as general information about the exam. In addition to this, our adaptive UCAT question bank offers a personalised learning experience, to help you to effectively prepare for the UCAT. Powered by artificial intelligence, our practice questions and practice tests will automatically adapt to your strengths and weaknesses, and ensure that you spend time on the areas which are likely to have the most impact on your UCAT score.

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